Philippines and Indonesia: July 25 to August 7, 2023

The Prelate of Opus Dei arrived in the Philippines on July 25. At the Manila airport he was received by the regional vicar of Opus Dei, Fr. Julio Diéguez, and by some families.

His agenda for Wednesday the 26th included, first of all, a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New Manila. In the afternoon, Msgr. Ocáriz had a get-together in the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) with some 300 students and young professionals who regularly attend formation activities organized by Opus Dei centers in the country.

In the morning of the following day, he received some families who shared their stories and showed him photos, which he blessed. He also met with 40 students from PAREF Southridge school who were about to leave for Lisbon to participate in the World Youth Day. He encouraged them to practice fraternity among themselves and with the people from other countries with whom they would be living during those days. He reminded them that they would surely encounter some difficulties on the way and that they could offer up them for the Pope. Finally, he gave them his blessing for the trip. In the afternoon, again at the University of Asia and the Pacific, he had another get-together with young people. He told them that the formative activities of Opus Dei are not meant to make oneself “perfect,” but to enable us to love Jesus more. Msgr. Ocáriz answered their questions on topics related to friendship, apostolate, prayer and vocational discernment.

On Friday morning, the 28th, he celebrated Mass in a chapel dedicated to Holy Mary Stella Orientis and visited some of the Prelature’s elderly and sick faithful in their homes.

On Sunday, July 30, he had a one-hour get-together with a large group of families, Opus Dei members and friends at the Mall of Asia Arena. The event drew close to seven thousand people.

A respected television and film screenwriter asked how to persevere in her work with creativity and a Christian outlook, going against the current of a secularized industry. The Prelate told her that she was involved in something very important and encouraged her to try to get to know producers, directors and others in the industry.

A group of Filipinos of Chinese origin told him about the formation activities they organize in Manila’s Chinatown and about the funds they have been collecting, thanks to generous benefactors, so that priests from mainland China can carry out their ecclesiastical studies in the Philippines or in Europe. They showed him a scroll with the text of the New Commandment painted in Chinese calligraphy for him to sign with a red seal bearing his signature in Chinese. They plan to place it in the study room of the future center of Opus Dei in Chinatown. Finally, they performed a Chinese folk song.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers, a world-renowned choir, also performed. Its current director, Mark Carpio, in greeting the Prelate expressed his gratitude to Opus Dei for the friendship and Christian formation he has received from his relationship with the Work since he was a young man.

On August 2, his last day in Manila, Msgr. Ocáriz met at the UAP with some of his sons who wanted to entertain him with a musical performance.

On August 3, shortly before noon, he landed at the Mactan Cebu International Airport. Several families from various cities in Bisayas and Mindanao welcomed him. A boy and a girl dressed as Datu Humabon and Queen Juana, the first Filipino converts to Christianity, presented him with some gifts. Later, other families from Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro and Davao were received by him at Lahug, an Opus Dei center in Cebu.

In mid-afternoon, Msgr. Ocáriz visited PAREF Springdale School. The PAREF management staff, teachers and their families showed him the schoolyard, presided over by a bronze bas-relief of the Holy Family designed by local artist Celso Pepito. At the Springdale meeting hall, the Prelate also had a meeting with some 25 diocesan priests from Cebu, Butuan and Leyte and Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog (Samar). He spoke to them about the dignity of the priestly ministry, telling them that priests are Christ on earth, and about the importance of diocesan priests living a deep fraternity among themselves, so that they do not feel alone in their ministry. At the end of the meeting, he asked for their blessing.

Late in the afternoon, he visited the minor basilica of the Santo Niño of Cebu. A religious priest, Father Ion, accompanied him to where the Augustinians who take care of the basilica live, so that he could pray before the original statue of the Santo Niño, which Ferdinand Magellan gave to Queen Juana in 1521. The Prelate placed some flowers at the base of the statue.

On the morning of August 4, he celebrated Mass at an Opus Dei center adjacent to the Center for Professional Development (BCPD), a technical-vocational school that has played a key role in promoting women’s advancement and job training for vulnerable sectors of society, including indigenous peoples, out-of-school youth and people with disabilities. The school’s management explained the various social programs it runs, several of which are supported by international organizations.

Msgr. Ocáriz then traveled north to Talamban to visit the CITE Technical Institute. The institute’s choir greeted him with a catchy Visayan melody, Oh Kinabuhi (“Oh Life!”). In the main hall he paused for a moment to pray before a bust of Blessed Alvaro that was adorned with flowers. He blessed the new chapel and greeted faculty, staff, families, benefactors and others who are part of the CITE community. One by one they introduced themselves, their children, and their friends. The Wong family gave him an icon of an angel with the CITE seal; the King family presented a model of a local sailboat cast in silver; Celso Pepito and his wife gave him a picture of St. Josemaría and Blessed Alvaro.

On his return to Lahug, he met with families and friends from PAREF Southdale and Southcrest schools. He also visited the director of CITE, who had been ill for some weeks at the University of Cebu Medical Center. Later, at 5 p.m., he had a lively hour-long family get-together at Oakridge Pavilion.

On the 5th, after celebrating Mass at the Lahug oratory, he left for the airport, where he boarded the plane that would take him to Indonesia.

He arrived in Surabaya, the second largest city in the country, late in the afternoon. It was the first time a Prelate of Opus Dei had visited Indonesia. Aware of the significance of the occasion, some faithful of Opus Dei, together with their families and friends, came to the airport carrying colorful banners with the legend: “Selamat Datang, Padre!

On Sunday morning, the Prelate went to visit Bishop Vincentius Sutikno Wisakono, who was in the hospital (he died four days later). Opus Dei is in Indonesia because Bishop Sutikno had asked the Work to begin its apostolic work in the diocese of Surabaya.

Afterwards, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz went to the diocesan seminary to greet the seminarians and priests. As he said later, he was impressed to see the dynamism of vocations in a country that is predominantly Muslim.

Afterwards he met with more than 200 people on the campus of Widya Mandala Catholic University in Pakuwon. As he usually does, he began with a few words about the liturgical feast of the day, the Transfiguration of the Lord. A young mother of two told him about her business selling children’s clothing and said that, after converting from Buddhism to Catholicism, she now enjoys studying the Word of God and teaching her children the Catholic faith. Others shared their concerns and asked for prayers for personal intentions. The meeting concluded with a traditional dance. In closing, the Prelate asked for prayers for the Pope and Bishop Sutikno.

The next day, the Prelate flew to the capital, Jakarta, where he first visited the Nuncio and then, at the Aryaduta Menteng Hotel, had another meeting with families attended by about 150 people. One of them, belonging to the Malay ethnic group of Dayaks, formerly known as headhunters, joked that he now wishes to “hunt souls” peacefully in his workplace and asked how he could show his friends that it is worthwhile to seek holiness, even if it requires considerable effort. Msgr. Ocáriz reminded him that holiness does not consist in purely human perfection or in the absence of defects, but rather in the perfection of love. The important thing, he said, is to begin again every day in the personal struggle to love God, and that love is a grace to be asked for.

Romana, n. 77, July-December 2023, p. 176-179.

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